I’m a Ghost: Pretending Not to Know by An Boyun
- onOctober 27, 2014
- Vol.20 Summer 2013
- byCho Yeon-jung
- Pretending Not to Know
A 20-year-old man smashes his mother’s head with a bowling ball, killing her in his own home. What happened to In-geun, who grew up with the label “gifted,” who used to act haughtily, who was raised by a father who worked as an honest accountant and a mother who was immaculate and tidy?
One day, suddenly, his father passes away and leaves his family with a mountain of debt. Afterwards, In-geun’s mother loses her will to live. And as if it were his father’s dying will, In-geun remembers his father’s last words, telling him to go to his younger sibling and hold hands. Soon In-geun’s family moves from a clean, modern apartment project to a low-income housing complex that looks like it is falling apart, situated just across a pedestrian overpass from where they used to live. There, In-geun frequents a temple called Jeongbeop and joins a group of people who subsist on money made from insurance fraud. As In-geun’s body begins to break down, he is slowly forgotten at home and school. More and more, he becomes a kind of ghost. Thanks to In-geun’s sacrifice, his family is able to sustain a decent lifestyle, though barely, and his younger brother eventually leaves the low-income dwelling. But In-geun’s mind and body slowly begin deteriorating. This is not only true for In-geun. We meet characters in this book who only have their own bodies as an asset and their only means of survival is by crushing their bodies or spilling blood.
Who made In-geun into the ghost he becomes and, in the end, a horrific murderer? To say that In-geun went astray is too simple. In the chapters describing In-geun’s inner turmoil (titled “Digging”), his fears, anger, and hopelessness aren’t fully articulated in the writing, amplifying In-geun’s pain. If we could have heard his feelings communicated, we would understand the unwitting tragic act that In-geun commits to: by destroying the family who turned him into someone he was not, a ghost, In-geun tried to validate his existence in the world one last time. Author An tells us, painstakingly, in Pretending Not to Know, that turning a blind eye to someone’s misfortunes is all too easy and might lead to terrifying consequences.
An Boyun is a writer. Born in Incheon in 1981, she began her literary career in 2005 when her novel Here Come the Crocodiles won the Munhakdongne Writer Award. Her other novels include The Doctor of Oz and Pretending Not to Know.